Saturday Essay Tero Peruna, how Gogol was made part of the Putin regime’s anti-Ukrainian propaganda

Nikolai Gogol’s miniature novel, Taras Bulba, set in the 17th century, has been a battleground between Russia and Ukraine since the 19th century. Gogol made another version of his work, to which he added a Russian patriotism. In modern Russia, it was made part of anti-Ukrainian propaganda.

“Before struggle I want to tell you, friends, about our fellowship. There are comrades in other countries as well, but there are no such people anywhere else in Russia, ”the old warlord says to his men.

“The way a Russian soul loves no one else can love.”

The barren warriors, the Cossacks, listen closely to their leader. This goes on to talk about the evil that has nested in their land. Those who bring with them “damn know what kind of barbaric customs” despise their own language and refuse to speak it to each other either.

Enemy forces are approaching. The chief concludes his words with, among other things, “Show them what companionship in the land of Russia means…… To the attack!”

The battle begins, pompous music plays.

Such is the case with the Russian historical feature film, which premiered in April 2009. Taras Bulban opening scene. Nikolai Gogolin the story, based on a miniature novel, dates back to the 17th century and tells the story of the struggle between its conquerors and the Cossack forces led by it against the Polish conquerors.

Bogdan Stupka will play Taras Bulba in the 2009 Russian film version.

Vladimir Bortkon the film, written and directed by Russia, was a big case when it was released in Russia – A report published by The New York Times at the time tells how the premiere of Moscow was celebrated by bringing riders dressed in piles on the streets and how the multi-thousand-headed audience at the Oktyabr Theater moved to tears.

The big-budget film was funded by the Russian Ministry of Culture. So in practice Vladimir Putin custom work, and a successful one. Taras Bulbasta became a hit in Russia.

The hero of the film, Bulba, is Ukrainian. Like the warriors led by him, the Cossacks of Zaporizhia. Nikolai Gogolkin was a Ukrainian by birth and did not move to St. Petersburg, Russia until he was in his twenties. Gogol utilized Ukrainian folk tales in its early production, and it was also based on them Taras Bulba. He published its collection of short stories In Mirgorod in 1835.

The Cultural War became a real war.

Of the year 2009 Taras Bulba filming had a very specific purpose.

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The relations between Ukraine and Russia had already deteriorated badly at that time. Ukraine had begun to aspire to NATO membership in 2008, and in addition, the country supported Georgia in the Russia-Georgia war in the fall of the same year.

Taras Bulba was also filmed in 2008. During the premiere, director Bortko said that Russia’s state TV channel Rossiya had commissioned him to make the film, as “the conflict with Kiev made it politically topical.”

The task of the film was therefore to show that Russia and Ukraine are one.

“Like two drops of mercury,” Bortko said in an interview with The New York Times.

“When they are close together, they come together. At the same time, our two nations are one. ”

Also a Russian extremist nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky was passionate about the same thing after the premiere on Russian TV.

“Everyone who sees this film realizes that the Russians and the Ukrainians are the same people and the enemy is coming from the West.”

Taras Bulba came to cinemas in Ukraine as well. It was certainly hoped in the Kremlin that the film would strengthen pro-Russianism and anti-independence in the country.

The issue did not go unnoticed in the Ukrainian media. For example, a local film critic Volodymyr Voytenko wrote the film “reminiscent of Putin’s propaganda leaflets”.

An article in The New York Times called the situation a cultural war.

Five years later, Russian troops began to take over Crimea and the territories of eastern Ukraine with the support of separatists.

On February 24, Russia invaded Ukraine, and a full-scale war broke out. President Putin paved the way for the attack first in long writing “On the historical unity of the Russians and Ukrainians” and finally a declaration of war, repeating the same message even more aggressively and accusing the current Ukrainian regime of being Nazi and Western puppetry.

The Cultural War became a real war.

Nikolai Gogol, Ukrainian Myholai Hohol (1809–1852).

It, that of Gogol and Taras Bulbasta became one small part of Russian propaganda and incitement to war, was a logical draw for Russia.

Taras Bulba is not one of Gogol ‘s best – known or most respected works, but in Russia it is known to all. For decades, it has been the standard reading list for Russian schools, for example.

At the same time, the work has been a hotbed of controversy between Russia and Ukraine for a long time – practically since the 19th century.

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Although the story first appeared in 1835, Gogol wrote an edited and expanded version of it in 1842. From the new he removed or changed the mentions of Ukraine and added long speeches praising Russia to the text.

Before their death, the fallen Cossacks always shout for the glory of “forever orthodox Russia”. In the end, Bulba, captured by the Poles, is burned alive, but from Rovi he still predicts the future: a tsar rising from Russia, “and there is no force in the world that would not humble him! ..”

Professor of Russian Culture and Literature Tomi Huttunen suggests looking, for example, at the beginning of the book on Bulba, or its two different versions.

“Gogol had two faces, two national identities, that he was struggling with.”

The original according to Bulba, “were of a nature that could only have arisen in the rough 15th century and only in the half-nomadic East of Europe, at a time when there was a right and wrong view of the lands that had somehow become controversial and unresolved, including Ukraine. The perpetual compulsion to defend borders against three different nations — all of which gave the sons of the sons a kind of free and powerful dimension and increased the strength of their minds. ” (Suom. Eero Balk.)

The three different enemies are the Poles, the Tatars and Moscow.

A later version writes that Bulba was born in the “corner of Europe, half-nomadic in the fifteenth century, when the whole of southern Russia, abandoned by his princes, was destroyed” and describes the Cossack as “a broad and unbridled expression of Russian character.” (Finnish) Ulla-Liisa Heino.)

The latter version became better known and the one that struck Russian minds over the next couple of hundred years. It also spread as translations around the world: in Finland, too, the 1835 version was first published in 2010 by Eero Balk.

Based on Gogol’s letters, he himself definitely thought that no conclusions should be drawn about him through his texts, Huttunen says.

“But from his texts one can see a strong Ukrainian nationalism, which is reflected in the emphasis on folk culture and a culture of freedom. And on top of that, we have the Russian umpinationalist Gogol, which reproduces messianic Russian mythology. The Ukrainian is emphasized in the early Russian in the late Gogol. ”

A film about Taras Bulba was also made in the United States in 1962. It featured Bulba in Yul Brynner. The story of the film did not follow Gogol’s original text very faithfully.

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Which one he was more, no one has found a credible answer, according to Huttunen. Of course, Russian literary history has wanted to make him a great, specifically Russian writer.

“Gogol had two faces, two national identities, that he was struggling with. Or actually three, because he had a Polish background. ”

“I think this has to do with Gogol as a whole: he’s a writer in many ways that doesn’t have any etiquette. Efforts have been made to define him as realistic, but Gogol is fleeing that definition all the time by being absurd and grotesque. It is also possible that Gogol wanted to Taras Bulban the new version will please Russian circles, get a hit with their book. ”

Huttunen points out that Gogol also hid criticism of Russia in his works. For example Dead souls Russian messianism, a description of Russia as a troika flowing through history, also contained lewd features.

“And Taras Bulba one can grasp patriotic speeches, but at the same time ignore, for example, the blatant anti-Semitism of the text. Or the name of the hero character himself, which could be something in Finnish in the style of ‘Tero Peruna’, or the fact that, according to the description in the book, he weighs more than 300 kilos. ”

According to Huttunen, Gogol’s classicism, which continues from decade and century to another, is related to precisely this difficulty in defining him.

Unfortunately, the same ambiguity allows Gogol to be harnessed anywhere, even state propaganda.

Vladimir Bortko, the director and screenwriter of the 2009 Taras Bulba film, is also a former member of the Russian State Duma and a strong supporter of Vladimir Putin.

Director-Screenwriter Vladimir Bortko stated in 2009 Taras Bulba that, despite his political intentions, he “just filmed Gogol and didn’t even come up with a sentence”.

The attentive viewer will notice that the atrocities of Bulba and the Cossacks have been cut down from the film and the character has been made suitable for modern viewers anyway, Braveheart-style righteous hero. The film has not been published in Finland, but it can be found on Youtube, for example.

Today, Bortko is fiercely defending Russia’s “special operation” in Ukraine. When Ukraine sank in April a Russian warship in Moscow, Bortko suggested in a TV interview that Russia should bomb Kiev in retaliation.

Bortko’s film has not been forgotten either – in April it was re-screened in Russia.

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